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The gospel train

Kenya's prayer train: A commute of prayers and songs

The daily journey to work can be a stressful, exhausting or plain boring experience. It may not be to everyone's tastes but one husband-and-wife team of preachers in Kenya believes the time is best used for spiritual upliftment and has transformed a Nairobi commuter train into a prayer session.

All images by Tobin Jones.

Self-styled pastor Helen Wangui Tiphy, a secretary in a government office, believes she plays a vital role in helping commuters cope with their problems.

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"Many of the people travelling in the morning are jobless, others are discouraged. We decided to give them the word of hope."

"You can see someone has many problems, but when we preach the word, you can see the person getting better and getting healed. There is power in prayer, that is what we believe," she says.

She is joined by her husband, businessman Joseph Tiphy Gachuhi, who has the grand title of bishop.

He believes prayer can help ease Kenya's sharp ethnic divides.

"When people pray together they become brothers and sisters. There isn't that separation of different tribes. They love one another."

"And because of this, they'll remove their tribal affiliations and they'll instead use God as a force that brings them altogether," Mr Gachuhi says.

With some 1,200 people killed after disputed elections in 2007, the couple are praying that the polls due in August will pass off peacefully.

"We're praying for the elections in Kenya. For God to give us peace and to give us God-fearing leaders who believe in the lord. We're praying to God that there won't be any bloodshed in the nation of Kenya," Mrs Tiphy says.

The train, which takes about an hour to get from Kikuyu, north of the capital, Nairobi, to the city centre, fills up with workers, schoolchildren and those looking for jobs as it nears its destination.

Commuters take up every available space but the conductor just manages to squeeze past and collect the train fare.

The prayer sessions started in 1998 when a group of Christians travelling to work together on the train decided to start a group and received permission to use the first carriage to worship, pray, and sing.

Ever since, the carriage has been used both in the mornings and evenings for this purpose. They call it the "Fellowship Coach".

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Empics

Mrs Tiphy says that if she sees someone who is capable, she gives them "a chance to pray a little and stand on their own".

"There are people who started from nothing and now are ministers."

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Empics

The group tries to create a schedule for who will preach and when, but it is fairly open to whoever is capable and wants to stand up in front and lead the group.

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